First, you should look to see if the lawyer has a website or a blog or both. If they have a website, see what type of information is posted on that website. Some lawyers will post a picture of themselves, give some information about different areas of law, give contact information. This is a good first step in researching the lawyer that you want to represent you.
Ask for a Consultation
Most lawyers will give you a consultation--some will charge you for it, and some will offer it for free. It is important for you to meet with any potential divorce lawyer, because you have to determine if this is a lawyer that you will be comfortable with.
What to look for at the Consultation
When you arrive at the office for the consultation--you should look around you at what the office looks like. It should be neat, clean, and organized. You should not be left waiting for a long period of time.
The lawyer should give you their undivided attention at the consultation--and you should not be interrupted. The lawyer should give you a brief description of your state's laws and divorce, and explain issues such as the filing fee, the waiting period, what issues need to be resolved in a divorce, and what county you would be filing in.
The lawyer should also tell you exactly how they would charge you for representing you--whether it is a flat fee or an hourly rate. The lawyer should tell you exactly what the flat fee includes and doesn't include, and if hourly, how the hour is billed (what type of minute increments), and what costs are charged as well. You should find out how often billings are sent out (monthly, quarterly), and how much time you have to pay the bill when it is sent.
The lawyer may charge you a retainer. Generally, a retainer is a prepayment of fees and costs, and all work performed after receiving the retainer comes out of the retainer. If the lawyer is charging a retainer, you need to know exactly how this retainer is going to be treated, and what happens when the retainer runs out.
The lawyer should also ask you who your spouse is, because the lawyer cannot meet with you if they have already met with or talked with your spouse. This is a very important question to ask the lawyer.
Are you compatible with the attorney?
The lawyer you meet with should make you comfortable and should come across as confident, knowledgeable, and professional. They should listen to you and address your concerns without dismissing them, and should not be condescending or judgmental. You should like them and be compatible with t hem, because you will be working very closely with them for some period of time.
You should be aware that lawyers are often more relaxed with clients, and how they act with you does not reflect how they act in court or with other attorneys. Just because they are nice and accommodating to you does not mean that they are a pushover with the judges or other attorneys.
Keep in mind that your attorney will not ever speak to your spouse unless your spouse represents themselves. If your spouse has an attorney, your attorney will always speak to that attorney only.
What to ask at the Consultation
You should ask a variety of questions, and here are some that are helpful:
* how many family law cases does the lawyer handle?
* how many people are on staff?
* who will be working on the case, appearing in court, and handling settlement negotiations?
* if the case went to trial, who would handle the trial?
* how is the case billed? hourly? flat fee?
* if hourly, what is the hourly rate for everyone?
* is there a retainer, and if so, how much and what happens when it is depleted?
* what costs are charged?
* what are options for communicating with the lawyers?
The questions above are just some initial questions that the lawyer should answer in the consultation. There will likely be more questions you will want to ask once you are in the consultation.
I want to hire this lawyer, what now?
If you are pleased with the consultation--ask the lawyer how to go about having them represent you. All lawyers should be very clear that they will only represent you once a Retainer Agreement is signed. You should have a signed agreement setting out the details of what your legal representation will involve. The lawyer will often require a retainer as well. You should ask for a receipt for your retainer.
Lastly, but most importantly, you should make sure that you can afford your attorney. Often a divorce case is more expensive than you anticipate--and you need to make sure that you can afford the lawyer from the beginning until the end of the case. If you ever feel as though you are having difficulty meeting your financial obligation to the lawyer, you need to contact them to discuss it.
Additional resources provided by the author
If you are interested in learning more, please call Wendy Alton at 734-665-4441 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about her firm, Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C., can be found here: www.psedlaw.com.